When Karl Lagerfeld dies in mid-February of this year, the fashion world mourns unanimously. Kaiser Karl, as the good man is often called, is at the helm of no less than 36 years at one of the most important fashion houses in the world: Chanel . Special in a time when designers are put aside as soon as they are brought in. Think of a Raf Simons who was allowed to leave Calvin Klein again in no time. Or Olivier Lapidus who saw his letter of resignation fall on the mat after just eight months at Lanvin. One day you're in, the next day you're out . But not with Chanel. Because if there is one fashion house that has the word 'consistency' in mind, it's Chanel. In its more than 100-year history, this actually only has two real main designers: Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.
Image above: model Adesuwa Aighewi in a tweed look during the Métiers d'Art 2018/19 show.
Moreover, Lagerfeld expresses clearly the important role that it plays. "Virginie is the most important person, not just for me, but also for the studio, for everything," he says in the documentary. "She is my right hand and even if I don't see her we are constantly on the phone." These praising words about his partner in couture are not so strange to anyone who knows that Viard has indeed played an influential role for years and supports the elderly designer on a daily basis. Literally by the way too, as was seen after one of the runway shows last year, in which she appears arm in arm with the designer. With good old Viard as a brand-new chief designer, Chanel's third chapter has definitely started, but the company knows very well who is being told to write the story.
CONSISTENCE IS 'KEY'
Continuity therefore seems to be the code word at the fashion house. Is that why Chanel has not taken a new shining name as its chief designer, but would rather choose someone who already knows the DNA through and through? It appears so. With consistency you counteract the issues of the day, you also promote sustainability - because timeless items - and you ensure a strong, recognizable design language. Making classics, the French fashion house is the master.
Image above: muse of the Caroline house
de Maigret always knows how to give a casual twist to her outfits.
For Lagerfeld, the tweed jacket in particular is an important item in his collections for the luxury house. The finely woven jackets are still made by hand in the workshops. And the designer even goes one step further: he actually uses tweed in evening and wedding dresses, shoes and jewelry. Because he processes or sometimes even tears the material, he manages to give it a modern twist . Another recurring item is the little black dress . Although Coco was not the first to introduce the short black dress, she is the one who knows how to push it into an essential part of a women's wardrobe. If she takes the simple, short design out of the mourning corner in the 1920s, there is initially little enthusiasm for it. Black, often long dresses are until that time actually worn exclusively during a period of mourning. Coco, however, does that very quickly. She makes the little black dress a recurring part of her collections, something that Lagerfeld will eagerly continue in innovative designs.
Master of the Zeitgeist
In addition, Chanel is one of the first fashion houses to attract muses. For Coco Chanel it was important that strong women, often with a raw edge, wore her clothes. She already started it at the very beginning of her career: from the thirties she has dressed such greats as Romy Schneider, Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Kennedy. For Lagerfeld, ambassadors are also a very important part of the brand's development. He is loyal to this, just like the muses themselves: here too we don't see any seasonal faces, but strong personalities who have been loyal to Chanel for years, from Catherine Deneuve and Caroline de Maigret to Margot Robbie and Lily-Rose Depp.
Image above: sketch from 1926, in which cococo introduces 'the little Black Dress'.
Image above: actress Penélope Cruz.